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April 25, 2012
There are few, if any, players on the Florida State roster who will enjoy the four days off this week more than catcher Stephen McGee.
Each morning when the redshirt sophomore gets out of bed he hears a symphony of creaks and cracks from his knees. He then takes around 30 minutes to get stretched out and ready for the day.
"Mornings are rough," he said. "It takes me a good half hour to get stretched and be able to get moving."
The soreness is a product of catching 346 of a possible 358 innings for the top-ranked Seminoles (33-7, 19-2 ACC) while starting every game this season. During a three-game sweep of Miami over the weekend, McGee caught 27 of 28 innings, and the lone inning he wasn't behind the plate he was at first base.
After the four-day break for final exams this week, McGee is expected back in the lineup as the Seminoles host Rhode Island this weekend.
"He's caught as many innings as any catcher I've had," FSU head coach Mike Martin said. "And that includes (former All-American catcher Buster) Posey? and the guy needs some time off."
McGee came into the season expecting to battle freshman Mario Amaral for the starting job behind the plate. But Amaral has seen action in just three games, starting none, and hasn't been able to play since Feb. 21 due to a back injury.
McGee dealt with his own injury last season as a right shoulder injury forced him to take a medical redshirt after appearing in 10 games. Because of the time he spent in the training room last season, the Port St. Lucie, Fla. native has made sure to take the necessary precautions to stay healthy this season.
"My body has been going through ups and downs," he said. "But still getting in (the training room) with (trainer) Corey Couture before and after. Just working on everything trying to keep my body healthy?just really trying to stay on top of things and make sure I am healthy. As the season goes on it gets tougher and tougher."
What hasn't gotten tougher for McGee as the season has gone on is getting on base. Though he entered the year with just 21 career at-bats, McGee is second on the team with a .474 on-base percentage to go along with a .263 batting average.
At the start of the season, McGee was penciled in the lineup in the No. 9 hole, but due to his ability to get on base (his 39 walks is second on the team to Sherman Johnson and is the ninth most in the country) he now bats fifth for FSU..
"He has a very good eye at the plate," Martin said. "He's got a good head on his shoulders, and he doesn't get frustrated if things don't go right. Doesn't carry his at bat back up to the plate the next time, and certainly never takes his at bat behind the plate."
His production at the plate is a mere bonus for the Seminoles, his true value is in how he has handled a young pitching staff this season.
FSU has a team earned run average of 3.44 this season, and reliever Gage Smith said that McGee is huge reason for the success on the mound by the young staff.
"I have never thrown to someone better," Smith said of McGee. "I love throwing to Steve better than any catcher I've ever thrown to. He's great back there and it's good to have him back there every time I throw and I know he's going to get me strikes that might not even be strikes. The way he catches the ball, and now he's hitting the ball too, he's big for us."
Last week Martin joked he would like to give his backstop the day off against D-II North Georgia, but didn't want to upset the 6-foot-3, 220-pound McGee.
"He would probably get mad," Martin joked. "I don't want to make him mad. He's bigger than I am."
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